04 Jun 2021, 11:55
Julian Wettengel

German election campaign row over petrol price shows climate hypocrisy – opinion


The political dispute about rising petrol prices in Germany shows the hypocrisy of many politicians’ climate policy approaches, writes Gerald Traufetter in an opinion piece for Spiegel. “No sooner had Green Party candidate for chancellor Annalena Baerbock spoken out this week in favour of gradually raising fuel prices by 16 cents, than a cross-party alliance of climate hypocrites opened the counterattack,” he writes. The politicians who are now criticising the proposal are the same ones that introduced the carbon price for transport and heating fuels at the start of the year – namely finance minister and SPD chancellor candidate Olaf Scholz and transport minister Andreas Scheuer, Traufetter states. Their decision raised the price of a litre of petrol by about 7 cents, and this same carbon price system will result in a total rise of 16 cents more per litre by 2025. The Greens propose reaching this price two years earlier in their draft election manifesto.

Traufetter points out that the debate hides the fact that part of the CO2 price revenues are already paid back to citizens through lower power prices, and that the Greens are proposing an additional “energy bonus fairly divided per capita.” Instead of explaining this price system to the public, Scholz and Scheuer “stir up citizens” to collect votes, argues Traufetter. “In this way, they are doing the [far-right populist party] AfD's business, which is not only fighting against climate action, but against democracy as a whole.”

Many politicians – including from the governing conservative CDU as well as CSU – industry representatives and other stakeholders advocate for a faster rise of the CO2 price to reach higher climate targets, which would translate into higher petrol, diesel and heating oil prices. At the same time there are worries about upsetting the electorate, as seen with the yellow vest protests in France which were triggered by fossil fuel taxation plans. Germany introduced a national carbon price on transport and heating fuels at the start of 2021 with a fixed price of 25 euros per tonne of CO2, which translates into a price increase of around 7 cents per litre of petrol, 8 cents per litre of diesel, 8 cents per litre of heating oil and 0.6 cents more per kilowatt hour of natural gas. The price is set to increase to 55-65 euros by 2026 and after that will be decided by the market in the trading system.

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